By: Akram Shaheedi
Thank you very much indeed Malala Yusufzai for making Pakistan proud of you by raising the voice against the mindset of hate-mongers who believe in thriving in shedding the blood of those who differ to comply with their diktat. Thank you daughter of this terrorism plagued country for spreading the message of education to the youth of the entire world regardless of their creed, caste, gender and the countries they belong to. Thank you Malala for emboldening the cause of courage and fortitude in the face of ruthless, faceless enemy who is devoid of whatsoever human values, thank you Malala for projecting Islam as the religion of peace and harmony that considers education and research as the highest virtues, thanks Malala for exposing the terrorist and their ideology to the core and thank you very much for delivering the powerful message of books and pens as the most effective weapons against terrorism while wearing the Chadder given by Shaheed Benazir Bhutto to you, who became the victim of terrorism during her arduous struggle to empower the poor people and women of Pakistan.
The ambience of the occasion of “Malala Day” in New York under the auspices of the United Nation was dignified by any measure and indeed seeing was believing. A girl of sixteen years of age had hair-thin escape of her life when terrorist sprayed bullets in her school van about a year ago for upholding the right of education for all boys and girls. She delivered an inspiring message in a most impressive and seamless manner, and backed by her commitment in absolute terms. The contents of message and its delivery ‘books and pens are the most powerful weapons against the terrorists’ were extraordinarily breath taking. She was addressing the delegates of youth to the vicinity of one thousand hailing from 100 countries of the world. The audiences were spell bound when Malala, flanked by the Secretary General United Nations Ban-Ki- Moon and her parents, spoke with full throated ease — education is the fundamental right of all boys and girls of the world. We have to ensure that all children are provided with the opportunities to get education without discrimination. Her composure, scope of the speech and God-gifted communication skill begs all descriptions. Shakespeare in his novel Hamlet may have used the following words in different context but they represent her persona beautifully:
What a piece of work is a man?
How noble in reason and infinite in faculties
In form and moving how express and admirable
Sadly, out TV Channels did not accord treatment the speech deserved. I recalled when all TV channels broadcast three hours long speech of MQM chief without any break. Malala also deserved not for her sake but for the sake of her cause.)
Her message of education is eternal. Learning enjoys the compatibility with human nature. Human being is gifted with unique quality of recollecting the past, plan for the present and future and also communicates in oral and written forms with fellow human beings.
No other creature has this level of intelligence and communication ability. Depriving the people from educating themselves in fact means fiddling with the nature and those who indulge in this type of activity should be marginalized sooner than later because their presence in social set-up is harmful with insidious effects. Terrorists and extremists belong to this breed and therefore do not qualify to be called as human beings.
No nation can excel in this world without investing in human capital and investment in education is the highest-divided oriented venture keeping in view the sustainable and desirable socio-economic development of a society. Unfortunately, in developing countries education has not been given the due attention in their development strategy. In Pakistan, the negligence was of criminal proportion because during many decades the budgetary allocations for education sector had been around 1% of the GDP. All the successive governments promised that they would raise it to 4% and 7% but that never materialized and allocations remained as dismal as ever even today. It is because of this reason that we could not meet the target of UN Millennium Goals despite the ratification of the convention by the government of Pakistan. It is embarrassing to mention that Pakistani is at lowest ebb in South Asian countries so far as the ratio of the school going children is concerned. In India 92% children go to school, In Bangladesh 96%, in Sri Lanka 99% and In Pakistan 52%, even Bhuttan is ahead of Pakistan in this count.
Heart-wrenchingly, the government of Pakistan has abdicated its responsibility and the education sector has been hijacked by the private sector which is solely propelled by the considerations of making money. After 18th Amendment during the PPP previous government, the sector had been devolved to the provinces and hopefully the provincial governments will give due attention to this sector. The provincial governments are now in better position to allocate generous allocations particularly after the 7th National Finance Award that has entitled the provinces of bigger share of the “Divisive Pool”. Already, the governments of KPK and Balochistan have taken quantum leap in this regard which is expected to make visible difference during the next five years. Literacy rate in these two provinces is considerably lower than the other two provinces.
Pakistan constitution makes it obligatory on the state to provide education to every child because getting education is his fundamental right and the fundamental rights are justiciable as the courts are their guarantors so far as the rights of citizenry are concerned. Despite this, about 40 million children have never gone to school because of erroneous priorities of the successive governments.
Half a million are adding every year in this tally. It suited to the gluttonous preferences of mandarins and therefore they did not bother to carry out the constitutional obligations knowing they could get away without consequences. Social sector had never figured conspicuously in the planning and development strategy of the governments in Pakistan. It was relegated to a secondary position during the non-representative governments especially when bureaucracy swayed the thinking of the government and it’s disconnect with the people and their aspirations was visible.
It is important to discuss the importance that Islam attaches to education and quest for knowledge. Prophet Muhammad (SAW) said, ‘Ink of a scholar is precious than the blood of a martyr.’ How beautiful exposition of the importance of education and research is given to the followers. He (SAW) knew its importance for building a society of enlightened Muslims as a valuable asset of Ummah. He (SAW) knew in the absence of scholarship Muslims would be like hordes — an embodiment of ignorance and obscurantiscism— and Muslim Ummah to be built on Islamic injunctions could not afford to bear their burden. Islam’s whole focus is on argument and persuasion in spreading the eternal message of it. Coercion, intimidation or enslavement is alien to Islamic injunctions. Famous English historian Edward Gibbon in his famous book, History of Saracen Empire, wrote, ‘The greatest success of Muhammad’s (PBUH) was affected through sheer moral force without the stroke of a sword.’ But, who will make them understand who are not prone to reason, fair play, justice and Islamic interpretations other than their own which are abundantly mired in prejudices and morbid mentality tendencies. In the same book Mahatma Gandhi is quoted as having paid rich tributes to the Prophet of Islam (SAW) when he stated, ‘I became more convinced that it was not the sword that won a place for Islam — it was the rigid simplicity, the utter self-effacement of the Prophet (SAW) the scrupulous regard for his pledges, his intense devotion, his intrepidity, his fearlessness, his absolute trust in his followers and in his own mission. ‘Who will deny the strength of moral values and its endurable successes during the times of the Prophet of Islam, (SAW) except those extremists who are exploding the bombs in markets, shrines, mosques, seats of learning even on the funeral processions and shedding the blood of Muslims. Muslim Ummah is well advised to disown them.
Malala Yousafzai has made history and is a beacon light for the youth to stand up in the face of tyranny, but never abandon your worthwhile cause no matter how much you have to suffer. Her message will have profound impact on the government of Pakistan leading to suitably alter their preference and divert resources to invest in the people who deserve a fairer and better deal. She has proved an exceptionally outstanding ambassador of Pakistan. The people of Pakistan paid her handsomely when they ensured unprecedented turn out in the in May, 2013 elections despite the naked threats of terrorists.
Akram Shaheedi is former Federal Secretary Information